3. Understanding Outlook Folders

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Understand the roles of the default mailbox folders and learn how to add and remove your own custom folders.


Lesson Goal

Explore the different mail folder types.

Data Files

For each email account connected to Outlook, a Data File will be created. Data files are represented in the folder pane. From the Folder pane, we can collapse and expand the data files to hide and show the folders contained within.

Folders for outgoing email

By default, most email accounts will have several folders which each serve a specific purpose. Users can add additional folders to be used for a wide range of applications.

When composing a new email, the folder is stored in the Drafts folder. It will stay here until you click send.

Once we click send the email will move to the Outbox folder. Emails are temporarily stored here until they are sent. Depending on the settings, the email may instantaneously be sent from the Outbox or they might stay in the Outbox until you click the Send and Receive icon at the top left of the interface.

When the email has been successfully sent it moves to the Sent Items folder. This simply contains copies of any emails we’ve sent.

Folders for incoming email

By default, incoming mail arrives in the Inbox. Emails with bold text are unread emails while emails with normal text have been opened.

If we’re sure we won’t use an email again, we can move it to the Deleted Items folder. These emails will be in an effective quarantine. For example, these emails will not be included in a search.

When you’re done with an email but you want to keep a copy, you should send it to the Archive. To do this, select the email and click the Archive button in the Home tab. This will store all older emails. Ideally you want your inbox to be well organized and contain the minimum amount of emails. But the archive is a large email repository that doesn’t need to be organized.

Finally, unwanted email will be sent to the Junk Email folder.


In this lesson, we'll explore the different mail folder types.

If we look at the folder pane to the left, we can see a simple hierarchy.

We have two separate sections, one for each of the email accounts we connected to in a previous lesson. These are called data files.

Each email account associated with Outlook will have a single data file.

This represents a physical file stored on the PC. We can manage our data files by navigating to File, clicking Account Settings and choosing the top option.

In this window, we'll select the Data Files tab.

Here, we can see the two data files and an icon next to the default data file.

If we click the Open File Location icon, a new window will open for the directory of the data file. Needless to say, we should ensure that this file is not moved or deleted.

We'll close this window and the Account Settings window to return to Outlook.

If we look at the folder pane again, we can see that the data files share similar folder structures. This is because both accounts use the default Outlook layout.

Each of these folders has a specific purpose.

We'll start with the Drafts folder as this is the first folder a new email is stored in.

If we save an email without sending, it can be found in the Drafts folder.

Note that the Drafts folder is only for emails we write, not emails we receive.

Let's open the Drafts folder and select the top draft.

As we view the contents in the reading pane, we can see that this an unfinished email. It looks nearly complete but it lacks a subject.

I'll quickly add a subject and click Send.

In some cases, when you click send in Outlook, the email doesn't immediately get sent to the recipient. By default, the email will be moved to the Outbox before being sent. If we don't have an internet connection, they'll stay here until we're connected again.

If we move to the Outbox, we can see that it's empty.

This is expected because I do have an internet connection.

Once an email has been dispatched, our copy is stored don't the Sent Items folder.

This is simply a copy of every email we've successfully sent.

If we navigate to the Inbox, we can see a few emails here.

These are all the emails we've received from other email accounts.

Unopened emails use bold text while open emails don't use any emphasis.

Ideally, we should only keep more immediate emails in this folder.

For example, this email covered a short conversation that seems to be over.

We have a few options for dealing with this email.

If we're sure we won't use it again, we can delete it.

This will move the email to the Deleted Items folder. This folder separates deleted emails from all other folders but it doesn't permanently remove them.

To do this, we need to go to the Deleted Items folder and delete the email here.

Alternatively, if we return to the Inbox, select an email and use the keyboard shortcut Shift and Delete, we can bypass the Deleted Items folder and permanently delete the email. If we want to remove an email from the Inbox but keep it for later use, we can send it to the Archive folder.

To do this, select the email, navigate to the Delete group in the ribbon, then select the Archive command.

If we get mail from a suspicious address, Outlook may move it to the Junk Mail folder.

This will usually contain emails from companies sending excessive and often bogus promotional offers.

Junk email also tends to include scam attempts.

Finally, we can add our own folders. For example, we may wanna create a folder for important emails. To do this, we'll right click on a data file, select New Folder and type Important.

This creates a new folder associated with the data file we chose.

We can also create sub-folders.

We'll create a new sub-folder to the important folder for very important emails.

We'll right click the Important folder, select New Folder and type Very Important.

Note that there's now an arrow icon next to the Important folder.

Clicking it will expand or collapse to show or reveal sub-folders within. We can also move folders. We'll right click the Important folder and select Move.

And this window, we can choose where to place this folder. If we select Inbox and click OK, the Important folder becomes a sub-folder of the Inbox.

Finally, we can delete folders. To do this, we'll right click the Important folder and delete it.

Note that this also deleted this folder's sub-folder.

Let's stop the lesson here. In the next lesson, we'll start learning how to compose and send emails.

Sending and Organizing Emails


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